J.R.'s San Francisco Update

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


In the interest of time, I've decided to resurrect this blog rather than start a new one. So ignore the part about San Francisco at the top and consider this J.R.'s Europe Update for the next couple of months. I'm sitting at London Heathrow and have noticed a observations.

First off, every time I come through I always have to chuckle at how much Brits look like Brits. I have this solid picture in my head of the British face and -- wow -- there are some cliche British faces in Britain. The best examples I can think of right now are the star of Shaun of the Dead, and in particular, his mother-who-turns-zombie. A good half of them bear an eerie similarity to one of the characters in that flick.

Never one to disappoint, the London weather -- in the middle of an August afternoon -- is absolutely dismal. It's gray, drizzly, and generally sour ... again, just as I remember it.

Let's see, what else ... oh, yes! Italians and Spaniards wear really colorful shoes. You can pretty much pick them out based on their feet alone. Apparently in order to feel like a fiery Latin person, you must wear bright pink shoes. To complete the effect, a lime green shirt helps. That really sets of the pinks shoes.

OK, that's it for now. I leave for Barcelona in two hours!


P.S. I'm a bit troubled by how unbelievably weak the dollar is and how much that sucks for me. When moving over to the pound, I'm losing almost 50%. The Euros prices aren't quite as bad but we're still looking at close to 30% difference when you factor in fees. Ouch.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Coincidences are strange things.

I just finished going over pictures of Italian villas and farmhouses that need to be posted to a client's website. Some of these structures are gorgeous, pristine wonders of architecture, others are so rustic and dilapidated that you wonder how they could be inhabited.

They all share one thing though: they are old. I mean really, really old. I'm not talking about fifty years old, or a hundred years old, we are talking about structures built in the 16th, 12th and 9th centuries. One even has a traces of a foundation from the 1st century AD. We are talking about manmade structures that stretch back to a time before computers, before electricity, before discovery of the new world, before anyone even protested the idea that you could fall off the end of the world.

The people who built these structures lived an entirely different kind of life. Now their homes that they built from scratch using nothing but the raw materials around them are being sold for millions of Euros to those who have made their fortunes sitting in offices, typing on computers.

After looking at these properties, my next stop on the web is to a website called alistapart.com and to an article about the ubiquity of computing technology today and the dearth of it that is coming. RFID tags in every product you own, sensors on every building, city wide wi-fi so you can always be in touch, data carried by our own bodies electro-magnetic fields. This is sci-fi on the Scale that Orwell and Bradbury wrote of.

Literally as I am reading this article this slightly odd fellow sits down next to me and starts complaining about his foot. I try to ignore him assuming he is just another of the crazies that frequent Market street on any given day. He then leans over, says "Excuse me" and asks in a thick Italian accent "If all of a sudden you could not use your computer, your cell phone, your dvd player, if it was all wiped out by a virus or some other disaster, do you think you would be happier?". Needless to say, I am bit taken aback.

I counter with the fact that the computer is essentially the source of my income. I protest that there are lots of benefits. I rack my brain for a reasonable, convincing argument. Ultimately I have to concede that I probably would be happier if I spent less time on the computer and more time in the real world.

So there is this middle-aged Italian man (with eyes that you would expect to find in someone of ninety): He has never used a computer. He has two masters degrees in classical studies and psychology. He speaks four languages but has never typed and every job he applies for requires computer skills. He is a crumbling, peaceful italian farmhouse who knows he faces extinction in a changed world and doesn't seem to care.

Then there is me: I design cyber architecture, order my groceries online, spend more time talking on Skype than in person, watch digital video on my LCD TV, and instead of stepping outside to see how cold it is, I check the weather via cellphone text message to 466-45. I'm everyware guy, basking in the amazing fusion of technology in our lives and trying desperately to ignore the fact that it makes us ever more distant from those around us.

It's not that I haven't thought about some of these points before. But when put in front of me in such an obvious way, I can't help but think that someone is trying to tell me something.

I guess I'll have to google "coincidences +life +changing" and see what I get.